Everton manager Ronald Koeman has confirmed that midfielder James McCarthy has returned to full training but will miss his side's trip to face Brighton and Hove Albion along with the rest of the Toffees' long-term injury victims.
McCarthy, 26, has missed the whole of the new campaign with a knee problem and has been blighted by injury problems during Koeman's reign at Goodison Park. The Republic of Ireland international managed just 12 league appearances for the Merseysiders last season, starting just seven matches.
Despite his numerous fitness concerns, Everton boss Koeman values the services McCarthy can provide when healthy and is glad to see him return to training, but the Dutchman believes the former Wigan Athletic star needs to play for the Under-23s before he can be considered available for the first team.
McCarthy is not the only Everton star who will miss the clash with Brighton: Seamus Coleman, Aaron Lennon, Ross Barkley, Ramiro Funes Mori and Yannick Bolasie are all out of action with an array of injuries.
"We had a lot of international players back training," Koeman said in his press conference. "Most of them are really good, some have little knocks. Coleman, who is doing well, Funes Mori, Barkley, Aaron Lennon is not fit, they are out for the weekend. McCarthy is in full training but it's too short to bring him in. He will get game-time in the Under-23s next week and then he will be back for the first team."
McCarthy's fitness has proved to be a bone of contention between Everton and Ireland, who have contributed to the midfielder's injury concerns by rushing him back for matches he should never have participated in.
Ireland's assistant manager Roy Keane fuelled the flames last week with a jibe about Everton's "scientists", but Koeman, who engaged in a war of words with Martin O'Neill last season, paid no attention to what the former Manchester United captain had to say.
"First of all I don't know what Keane said about the situation, I'm not interested in his comments," Koeman said. "The player had several physical problems and we tried to solve them. He's now back, they did a good thing not to use him and we like to bring him back. He's an important player but we don't take risks, let's hope he will be totally fit and available next weekend."